If you’re trying to find the single best place to do B2B social media lead generation, focus on LinkedIn. You have the best chance of finding your decision makers here. According to a recent survey, 59% of social networkers said that LinkedIn is more important than any other social media site.
But getting sales leads from LinkedIn is not as simple as just signing up. You need to take a careful, focused, patient approach to building relationships and starting conversations with your prospects on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Lead Generation
Start With Your Immediate Network
One of the most powerful aspects of LinkedIn is that it shows you, in full transparency, your entire professional network (and the network of everyone else in your professional network). Just like the old saying about “six degrees of separation,” no matter which high-level decision maker you’re trying to reach, you probably already know someone who knows someone who knows them.
You might only be 2 or 3 degrees removed from most of your key decision makers. So if there’s a prospect that you’d like to talk to, before you pick up the phone and make a cold call, see who you know at their company. See if you can get introduced via LinkedIn. See if you can get someone to put in a good word for you.
LinkedIn won’t necessarily open all of the doors to every decision maker on your list, but it will definitely help warm up a decent percentage your cold calls.
Upgrade Your Account
Most LinkedIn users have a Basic account, which has fewer features and benefits than some of the other premium memberships. For as little as $19.95 per month, you can get access to more tools that make it easier to reach your prospects, find out who’s searching for you, and find more of the people you’d like to reach (by searching based on industry, job title, company, ZIP code, etc.) If you’re a small business owner, it might be worth investing in upgraded LinkedIn accounts for yourself and/or your sales team.
The reason why LinkedIn charges for expanded access to the site features is because they are trying to minimize spam and maximize the valuable time of their members – it’s the same reason why LinkedIn encourages members to only connect with people they actually know in real life. So by purchasing an upgraded membership, you are showing that you are legitimately trying to use LinkedIn for lead generation and are not a spammer.
One of the best tools on LinkedIn (if you upgrade your account beyond Basic) is InMail, which we’ll discuss next.
LinkedIn has a feature called InMail (if you buy a premium membership) that allows you to send a limited number of direct messages to anyone on LinkedIn, even to people outside of your network. Unlike a regular email which is too often ignored or deleted, InMail can be a great tool to directly reach key prospects and decision makers. LinkedIn guarantees you a response within 7 days, or you won’t be charged for the use of your InMail message.
InMail messages tend to have a higher degree of trust and credibility, because the prospect can see your LinkedIn profile and immediately decide whether or not you’re someone they’d like to talk with further. Because you only get a few InMail messages per month (3, 5 or 10 messages, depending on the level of your LinkedIn membership), you need to make them count.
Craft your message specifically to each prospect. Make it personal. Show them why you’re trying to reach them and why it would be valuable for them to talk further with you.
Get the Most Out of LinkedIn Groups
Beyond direct contact with prospects through your network and outreach, another great way to get sales leads from LinkedIn is to take a longer-term approach of building a reputation and developing relationships through LinkedIn Groups. But you need to focus. Spamming 50 different groups with links to your latest blog post will do nothing. It’s a waste of time, and will most likely get you blocked from the group.
To use LinkedIn effectively, you need to focus on joining groups where your prospect company’s CFO or CEO may be located. This next part really requires a lot of patience, but you will need to go through the various discussions in each group, and sort through the spammers to find the people who are genuinely asking questions about their pain issues.
Take the Conversation Further
For example, if you sell accounting solutions and you see in a LinkedIn Group that a controller for a company has said, “Does anyone know how to treat depreciation of assets for the new 2013 tax codes?” This is your chance to build that relationship. Even though it’s not the CFO, the controller is only one level below. Answer the question privately, and let that controller know that they can feel free to ask you questions as a resource, since you are an expert on this subject.
After you have exchanged a few responses, don’t come off too strong, but find out if the prospect is having issues that your solution might be able to address. You may say, “My company has developed a software solution that automatically calculates depreciation and other line items on your balance sheet. Can I send you information on it?” Notice how gentle and subtle that was? We weren’t asking, “Do you need a new solution?” Or, “Can you introduce me to your CFO?” Instead, use your LinkedIn conversations to test the waters for receptivity.
In my field that is what we call “testing for pain.” We know that the prospect has an issue (they didn’t know how to calculate depreciation) and, most likely, are having trouble with other calculations as well. But now we want to see if they are motivated to act on their pain issue (motivation). That controller who you talked to on LinkedIn (even though they aren’t your decision maker) will most likely bring your solution to the CFO.
You have extended your hand to help them, and hopefully they will do the same for you.
LinkedIn can do amazing things for your business if you know how to take the right approach. Instead of sending out sales pitches, use a more gradual, patient approach to building relationships and developing trust.
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It is a wonderful opportunity for marketers to showcase their business. LinkedIn serves as an opening for potential leads that can affect the future of your sales.